RARA-AVIS: multiple 1st person

From: Carrie Pruett ( pruettc@hotmail.com)
Date: 24 May 2002

I meant to mention Bill Pronzini's "A Wasteland of Strangers" as a multiple first-person book (and at least arguably hard-boiled). Pronzini does use chapter headings to differentiate the speakers and there are vast differences in the characters' voice/intelligence/sanity etc that just wouldn't come across the same in 3rd person. Another interesting aspect is that the central/pivotal character in the book does not narrate his own section at all. Instead you get these many different views of him. I compared the effect of reading the book to a group of people sitting around a campfire, passing the flashlight and continuing the story in their own words. In this case it was very effective (another book, not a crime novel, that uses the same approach extremely well is Tom Perrotta's "Election" - an effect that was duplicated surprisingly well in the film through voiceover, and I'm saying this as someone who generally despises voiceover). But it's definitely something that can seem gimmicky if it's not well done.


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